Monday of the First Week in Lent
(Leviticus 19:1-2.11-18; Matthew 25:31-46)
In the urge to give as much assistance to as many people as possible, helpers sometimes miss what is most important about a work of mercy. If they do not treat people in need with respect, they may even being doing them harm. Respect literally means to look twice. It is to see in the other not just another man or woman in need but a human person with feelings, ideas, and relationships. In light of today’s gospel, respect means to see the person in need as a substitute for Christ.
The St. Vincent de Paul Society makes respect a priority. It heartily recommends that provisions not be handed to the needy in centers of distribution but be brought to the places where they live. In this way not only do real needs become apparent but also a sense of concern is conveyed. Truly helpful relationships are fostered because the people involved develop more than a superficial knowledge of one another.
It is usually not hard for us to provide services to the needy. Sometimes, indeed, we receive remuneration for doing so. But what the Lord wants of us in assisting the poor is to treat them as we would treat him. That is, we are to respect them by attending to their emotional and spiritual as well as their physical needs.